Foundation Knights 2

A Haunting in Cape Olivier

“Alright, so, now that you’ve been sufficiently introduced,” Dr. Nick Quinn said, adjusting his stack of papers, “we can get into this thing properly.”

He opened a small sack and emptied out a handful of shiny green dice into his palm. “So Mary, I know you’re familiar with all of this, but for you others who aren’t as well versed in the rich fantasy worlds of tabletop roleplaying, let me give you a little bit of information about how this all works.”

He rolled the dice on the table between them for effect. “You all are being set loose into this fantasy world that I’ve constructed for you, and the information you have access to is available in the handbook there. Using a combination of rules and dice rolls, we’ll determine what you want to do, and whether you can do it or not. Obviously those numbers on the sheets in front of you are important, but,” he paused, looking over their sheets from across the table, “yeah, don’t worry too much about that right now. We’ll deal with those later.”

He coughed, and then raised his hands dramatically and began.

“Our story begins with our party leaving the small town of Beachside, in the Kingdom of the Silver Coast…”

“You know, it occurs to me that we probably had enough money to rent a cart, or something. Or even just a horse,” Tyvus says, his body drooping with every step. “Like, look you guys, I’m not really good with stamina, or physical fitness, or anything like that. I didn’t realize we’d be trekking across the entire goddamn countryside here.”

Ash Labelle looks down at him, grinning a little too much. “Come now, little man. The Foundation Knight must be sturdy and dependable, always able to draw more strength in the difficult times. We must push forth!”

Tyvus looks up at her sheepishly, sweat dripping from his brow. “I mean yeah that might be fine with you Knight Berserkers, but we Knight Technomancers spent most of our time in the workshop, you dig? Not so much of the ole field work for us. Or any, really.”

Adrian pauses on the side of the road, staring down the large hill they had been climbing for the last few hours to where the small town of Beachside sat, picturesque in the light of the setting sun reflecting off of the Shimmering Sea. He looks further up the hill, to where it crests before dropping into the valley beyond, where they all know the castle of the Duke of Elmbeach lies.

“So,” Adrian says, tapping his fingers on the side of his sword hilt, “we’re still like, three hours out. Tyvus, you look like you’re actually about to die, so I assume you’re not exactly down for another three hours of hiking.” He stares off into the sky, where the sun is beginning to sink below the horizon. “Plus, we’re nearly at nighttime, homies. If I know anything about fantasy worlds at night, there’s bound to be some kind of shenaniganery if we don’t camp up.”

Ash stops and turns back. “This small blonde boy is right. Wild beasts roam the countryside at night. We should make camp and sleep to gain energy for tomorrow.” She eyes Ella’s short bow. “You there, small girl. You have a bow, yes? You are a hunter?”

Ella shrugs knowingly. “I do, yes. And I know a thing or two about hunting, yes.” She pulls her bow out and strings it. “I’ll go get food.” She walks off into the brush and disappears, out of sight.

Tyvus collapses on the road. “Oh praise Alexandra. My legs are ruined.”

Adrian eyes him skeptically. “Don’t you have machines and servos and such built into your body? You’re part cyborg or something, aren’t you? What’s the deal with this?”

Tyvus rolls onto his back and curls into a ball. “Most of my enhancements are built towards offense and stuff, I’m not a high-endurance sort of fighter.” He rolls over to his other side. “I didn’t think we’d actually be walking the distances necessary to do adventuring. I thought we’d be riding horses. Like actual adventurers.”

Adrian nods. “So was that a personal choice, or did you just not know you can put attribute points into different categories?”

Mohammad glared across the table at Elliott, who shrugged.

Ash suddenly freezes, and hunkers down. She slides sideways back towards Adrian, and shoves him to the ground. She flops to the ground next to them.

“Hey what the fuck are you doing,” Adrian says, before being thoroughly shushed by Ash.

“Something approaches,” Ash says, quietly. “A creature. Perhaps something that hungers for our flesh.” She points towards the grass across the road, opposite of the side that Ella had run off into. “Over there.” She pauses. “Slim robot boy. You have magics, yes? You can do spells?”

Tyvus shakes his head quickly. “Nope, not spells. Definitely can’t do that. Mostly can do things to machines and also do some lightning stuff.”

Ash rubs her chin. “Lightning stuff will be sufficient. Stun the creature, give Ash a chance to strike the beast. Go now, little man,” and she throws Tyvus up into the middle of the road. He steadies himself, and then distinctly hears the sound of growling and rustling in the grass. He takes a step back, and looks towards Ash and Adrian panickedly.

“Hang on guys, I’ve never actually hit anyhing alive before. I have literally no idea what this will do.”

Ash throws him a thumbs up. “No time like the present little girly man. Do your lightning stuff. Get on, now.”

Tyvus nervously turns towards the brush, where the faint form of a four legged creature stalking towards the party is growing ever more visible. He takes a deep breath, rubs his hands together fervently, and—

“That’s an eleven, plus three, fourteen,” Mohammad said.

“Yeah, that’s enough for a hit,” said Nick.

then claps, creating sparks that crackle out in every direction. He turns his palms outwards and as the sparks continue to build and sizzle in the air around him, he flexes his open hands into fists and two bright blue bolts of electricity race through his body. Starting in the capacitors in his back, the bolts arc through his arms, lighting up the circuits under his skin, before exiting through his hands and flying through the air creating a fierce hum. It flies through the grass and strikes the creature

“What do I need to roll?”

Nick sorted through his list of abilities. “Let’s see, that’s a technoclap… that’s 1d6 plus your modifier.”

“Cool,” Mohammad said before rolling a die. He did some quick math, frowned, and then said, “That’s 4.”

Nick nodded. “Alright, so not great, but I think that’s enough to stun this direwolf, and you can now see that it is a direwolf, though it’s not—

“Aiiiieeeeeee!” Ash screams, lunging from her hiding spot on the side of the road and pulling her ax from her back. She pulls a ripcord near the back of the blade, igniting the jet engine with a vicious roar. She nears the stunned direwolf, looses a wild screech, and flips a switch on the ax, which burns forward in a wide arc and—

“That’s a nineteen damage there, buddy,” Vera said, her eyes wild with fantasy bloodlust.

“Uh, y-yeah, that’ll do it,” Nick said, slowly edging away from her.

—smashes into the skull of direwolf, obliterating it.

“Holy shit!” Adrian says, staggering to his feet.

“Sweet Alexandra,” Tyvus says, excess electricity continuing to discharge from his back. “I thought we were just going to like, stun it, you know, and then let it go somewhere. Oh my.”

Ash looks back at him, dismissively. “Little human person, you must learn to strike when opportunity arises. The beast was stunned thanks to your zapping, and now the beast poses us no threat. Besides,” she says, grabbing the direwolf by the back of its neck, “direwolf pelt makes excellent shirt, and the meat is a fine jerky.”

Tyvus, Adrian, and Ash assemble a small camp complete with a fire large enough to suit Ash, who skins the direwolf and hangs its pelt near the fire to dry it out. Adrian begins to cut parts of the direwolf to roast on the fire, but is interrupted by Tyvus after a few minutes.

“You know,” Tyvus says, rubbing the backs of his arms, “didn’t Ella go to get food earlier? Like, go to hunt?

Suddenly, as if having waited for somebody to bring up her absence to add to the dramatic effect, Ella comes bounding out of the grass and into the clearing of their camp, dragging a huge wild hog by a rope behind her. She pulls it to the side and lets it sit, then stares gleefully around the camp. Adrian looks up at her, and then at the grunting, salivating hog, and then back at her, quizzically.

“We already got food, Ella,” he says. “What took you so long?”

She scoffs. “Food? Who was talking about food? I found this hog and now it’s my pet. It’s called Juniper. I’m going to ride it so I don’t have to walk anymore.”

Ash nods approvingly. “Yes, good. Always good to keep familiar animals nearby that can be eaten in a pinch.”

Tyvus stares at her in horror. “What? Wild hogs are vicious beasts! How in the world did you subdue one, let alone domesticate one?”

Ella smacks the tome hanging by her side. “Us Knight Physicians keep a few subduing spells on hand, just in case we need to incapacitate somebody who’s resisting treatment. This one is “charm creature”, and it should do the trick.”

Mary nudged Nick in the side. “It will do the trick, won’t it?”

He winced slightly. “I mean, yes, you’ll have to recast it, but—”

“Good enough for me!” she said, scribbling the word “big pig” on her character sheet.

Night falls heavily over the countryside, and the party finds a few hours of sleep amidst the snoring of Ella and her hog. As morning breaks, Adrian, Ella, and Tyvus awaken to find a crudely constructed cart sitting in their camp, lashed with a few strong timbers to Juniper the hog, who grunts happily as they all approach him.

“My pig!” Ella says in dramatic shock. “What have you done?

Ash comes around the back of the cart, having made a few minor additions to the back. “Pig is strong,” she says, as a matter-of-fact. “We travel further and faster on pig.”

Tyvus wanders around the cart. “So you built a cart?” He says.

Ash slams a heavy fist against her chest. “I am master carpenter of Labelle tribe.”

The party cleans up their camp, steadies themselves in the rickety cart, and with a word from Ella, speed down the road towards Elmbeach behind the surprisingly quick Juniper.

They arrive at the small but robust castle of Elmbeach and, having sent word ahead, are met warmly at the gatehouse of the castle proper by a short, squat man who—

“Hello there, dwarf person!” Ash shouts, audible from a mile away. “We are here to see the Duke of Elmbeach. I am Ash Labelle, of the ancient Labelle tribe. With me are my traveling companions, this thin, uncanny fellow named Tyvus, this short, angry girl named Ella, and our foolhardy commander, Adrian.”

The short man winces. “Ah, yes, we were informed earlier that you would be… arriving. Welcome to Castle Elmbeach, my name is Custard… Tart, and I’ll be—

“Hang on a second,” Mary said, “Custard Tart? What?”

“Look, you do your thing and I’ll do mine,” Nick said, quickly returning to his book.

—your steward here at the castle. Anything you need, I can procure. Please, just say the word.”

Tyvus steps forward sheepishly. “Ah, thank you kind steward. We did have just a bit of an incident in town before we left yesterday, and needless to say there may be need for some reparations on our part towards the town innkeeper and his… facilities.”

Custard Tart waves his hand and tuts. “No need to worry, dear Knights. Our lord, the Duke of Elmbeach, has already sent a crew to repair the damage accrued during yesterday’s unfortunate unpleasantries.” He turns and starts to walk across the bridge towards the castle. “Come along now, the Duke is eager to see you, I have no doubt.”

Adrian leaps towards the front, and turns to face the rest of the party. “Yes!” he says, “come along now, you lot. Let’s see our good friend, the Duke of Elmbeach.” He quickly slicks his hair to the side and scurries off after the steward, followed closely by Tyvus, Ella and Ash.

As the party enters the great hall of the castle, they are met by an older, thinner man with wispy grey hair but a cheerful and friendly face. He wears noble finery, including an insignia bearing the image of an elm tree overlooking a beach. He extends his arms in a warm and welcoming fashion.

“Ah, wonderful! Hello, dear Knights, and welcome to my castle. I do hope your travels were not too much of a hardship,” he says kindly.

Ella steps forward and nearly collapses in a dramatic fashion. “Oh noble Duke, our journey was so long and so perilous, fraught with danger at every turn. Had it not been for the swiftness and fortitude of my dear hog Juniper, we may not have made it at all.” She spins towards the Duke and leans into him. “Please do see that my sweet pig is taken care of.”

The Duke hesitates for a moment, and then nods vigorously. “Yes of course, my lady! Anything for the noble steed of a Knight! Your hog is in fine hands here at Castle Elmbeach!” As Ella thanks him and spins away, the Duke turns towards Adrian. “Commander Light, it is a pleasure to finally meet you. Your grandfather was a great man, and it is heartening to see you following in his footsteps.”

“Uh… yes, just like my grandfather,” Adrian says. “My lord, our message said we were needed here urgently, that there was something of a crisis to be resolved?”

The Duke nodded sadly, his face sinking. “Yes, I’m afraid there is. The town due west of here is called Cape Olivier, and we have enjoyed a healthy trade relationship with them these past few years. However, as of late we have had no travelers from the Cape town, nor any other word from their lord, the Duke of Cape Olivier. I fear some terror might have befallen them, but…” he pauses, “but I hesitated to call the local militia, for fear of what might be lying in wait there. I reached out to you first, Commander.”

Adrian nods slowly. “I see. Very well. Do you have any other information for us?”

“Yes,” the Duke says, “we received a visitor from your Citadel just two days prior, who said he would wait here until you arrived. He did not say why, nor was he a face I recognized. He’s waiting for you in the library, in the north tower.”

“Alright, so what are our options now?” Mary said.

Nick adjusted his books. “Well, you could head towards Cape Olivier and see what’s up there, or go meet this visitor in the north tower, or… I don’t know, go shopping or something. There’s a town outside of the castle, too.” He paused. “Though, were I you, I might want to have this conversation with your commander,” he gestured towards Elliott, “in character.”

Mary shrugged. “Fine with me. Alright—

—boss, what do you want to do first?” Ella says.

Adrian strokes his chin knowingly. “I feel as if this visitor might have other wisdom for us. We should seek him out first.”

“Cool,” Ella says, turning towards the door. “Let’s get a move on, then. I want to go burn some monsters.”

The party makes their way towards the north tower, and are met by two guards bearing the insignia of Foundation Knight Paladins. They are acknowledged by the guards, who bring them into the library. A bald, pudgy, robed man stands inside, quietly perusing the bookshelf. As the party enters the room, he turns to greet them. As he does, each one of them immediately falls to one knee.

“Prorexi Anarcist!” they shout in unison. The man sighs and gestures for them to stand.

“Please, please, no need for any of that,” he says. “Outside of the citadel I’m just—

“Dr. Bridge!” Vera said, smiling as the doctor approached them.

“Yes, yes,” Django replied cheerfully. “Thank you for waiting on me, Dr. Quinn. I didn’t mean to hold you up.”

Nick nodded. “That’s no problem, Dr. Bridge. Glad to have you. You’re familiar with this system?”

Django nodded knowingly. “Indeed, I did the homework. Let’s do this.”

—Django Bridge, wizard and adventurer.”

Adrian stands and steps forward. “General Bridge, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at the Citadel?”

Django shakes his head. “No, no, not today. Unfortunately, duty calls us today. I’ve decided to join you four today, because,” he looks around, as if trying to percept prying eyes or ears, “I have reason to believe that the reason Cape Olivier has gone silent is because of one of the ancient demons from the before-times.”

Tyvus’ eyes open wide. “What? One of the old demons? How do you know?”

Django walks to a window facing east and stands before it, staring out towards the morning sun. “Documents that our Archivists have recovered from ancient Foundation fortresses have identified the phenomenon currently being experienced in Cape Olivier as nearly identical to that experienced by one town in the before-times that was under the influence of a dangerous and terrible lich called ‘The Hanged King’. It is a terrible and horrific creature, born of despair and hatred, and if we are correct then the citizens of Cape Olivier have already succumbed to the creature and are lost.”

“Well shit,” Ella says. “What’s the point in even going, then?”

Django turns to them. “Many of our chief Archivists and Scholars believe that, if left unchecked, this Hanged King could weave a tapestry of darkness across the entire eastern countryside, bringing ruin and devastation to hundreds of innocents.” He nods curtly, two of his chins bouncing off of each other. “It must be destroyed.”

Tyvus raises a meek hand. “Mr. Lord General Bridge, ser, uh, let me be the first to say how much I appreciate the gravity of this situation, so let me then say that I, uh, don’t have any first hand experience with… liches… nor do any of my colleagues, I’d imagine, so… I guess I’m confused about why we’re being sent to fight a powerful demon instead of a group of Priests. Or really anyone else, other than us. We had trouble killing a wolf earlier.”

“You had trouble killing a wolf earlier,” Ash says. “I did just fine.”

Django grabs across the back of the neck and gives him a gentle squeeze. Tyvus doesn’t respond well. “Tyvus my boy,” Django says, fatherly, “sometimes life sends you hardships in the way of sickness, or in financial distress, or even in a swift kick to the ole nads. But in this case, life has sent us hardship in the way of a hellish demon creature that needs to be put down something fierce. Besides,” he says, relinquishing Tyvus’ neck, “the nearest detachment of priests is north across the mountains, nearly a week's ride from here. Who knows what untold destruction this creature could create before they got here.”

“Hell yes,” Ella says, stomping a foot eagerly on the ground. “This is what I’m fucking talking about. I’m done with this ‘stunning direwolves’ and ‘blowing up toilets’ business that we’ve gotten into since we met up. I want to blow up a lich, dudes. Just point in the right direction and let’s get it going.”

“Now hang on there, Sar Ulrich,” Django says, producing a thick woolen sack. “Liches are creatures born of darkness that abhor the light. They will try to bring the darkness in around them like a shield, or in some cases, like a vice. Find a lich in the darkness, and it will certainly be the last time you do so. As such, I’ve procured for each of you a special light-enchanted weapon. These aren’t legendary items or anything, but for the purposes of smiting a lich they’ll do lovely.”

He reaches into the bag and draws out a small wooden box. He clicks open the clasp, and laying in the velvet lined interior are six glowing orbs that crackle with electricity. “For you, Ser Anderson,” he hands the box to Tyvus, whose technomantical implants begin responding with the orbs almost immediately, drawing them out and causing them to orbit a spot on his wrist, “these are the ‘Silver Orbs of the Mirror Lord’, something procured from a vault beneath a ruined castle in near the Empire’s eastern border.” He pauses to let Tyvus examine the orbs, which flit around his body like tiny birds. “They are imbued with light magic, and will allow you to—

Nick peered over his notes. “Er… they basically change the typing of things like technoclap from ‘lightning’ to ‘radiant’. Anything you have that does that will… do that.”

Mohammad nodded. “Cool.”

Django turns to Ash. “For you, Sar Labelle, I have this lance.” He produces a long, sharp, ornate spear with a leather handle, markings of a cross near the head, and a long chain attached to some kind of bracer at the back end. “I don’t actually know what it’s called, the runes on it aren’t any we’ve seen before. It’s definitely tied to some kind of god, though.”

Ash holds the lance aloft and smiles gleefully, strapping the bracer to her arm. “Yes, this will do just fine. I will use this tool to crush the puny lich creature beneath my boot.”

Django nods. “Yes, you certainly will. Now, Adrian, you already have a sword that is literally called ‘Light’, so I don’t know if I can do any better than that for you—


—but Ella, I have some really special in mind for your armaments.” He digs through the bag for a bit longer before pulling out a weathered, leatherbound book with a number of glyphs printed on the front. “This is a tome from my own collection called ‘The Collective Ruminations of Dr. S. D. Locke’, which will allow you to cast a powerful light magic spell called ‘Daybreak’, among others. It is particularly ancient, so do be careful. Legends say it came here from a faraway land, across space and time.” He shrugs. “It’s been sitting in my study for about three years and I’ve never looked at it, so your guess is as good as mine as to how this will manifest.”

Ella looks the tome over with anticipation. “This is great, but this is pretty high level light magic, isn’t it? I’m like level three, my man, I don’t think I can even cast these spells if I wanted to.”

“You actually can,” Nick said, pointing to a spot on Mary’s sheet. “You’ve got a feat called ‘Prodigy’, which allows you to once a day cast a single spell of a much higher level than you usually could, at the expense of some of your other spell slots. Everything in that book falls pretty squarely within the range of things you could cast with that.”

“But just to be sure,” Django says, reaching into the bag once more, “I’ve ascertained this enchanted… uh… necklace. It has a temporary amount of divine power within it, and by channeling this power you can cast up to three higher level radiant spells without taking any penalties before it runs out. But once it’s out, it’s out, so do be careful.”

“Sick,” Ella says, nodding.

Suddenly, there is the sound of a bell, and then many bells. The party sees soldiers running in the hallway, and hears the sound of shouting outside. Adrian runs to the door and grabs a passing soldier.

“You there,” he says, “what’s the nature of this kerfuffle?”

“Demons, my lord!” the man shouts, “demons from Cape Olivier! They’ve attacked a caravan outside of the city!”

The man pulls free from Adrian’s grasp and runs off. Adrian turns to the rest of the party, his eyes gleaming.

“These guys are going to get mulched if these demons are who we think they are, right?” He looks around eagerly. “So what are we waiting for? Let’s fucking go!” He pauses and stammers out, “Uh, of course, with your permission, Prorexi.”

Django nods. “Well, yeah. That’s what I’m here for. Let’s get a’scootin, team.”

The party follows the soldiers to the battlements where a horrific scene is visible in the distance. A long caravan of carts, no doubt traders from the Empire or somewhere in the west, are scattering and attempting to flee from what appear to be dark, smoky apparitions that are grabbing the caravaners and pulling them into a black ether.

“No doubt the work of our fiend in the west,” Django says. “You go ahead, I’ll provide cover fire from here.”

Adrian, Ash, Ella and Tyvus make a break for the main gate, which the town guard was attempting to close. After a very brief scolding about the nature of bravery, the party breaks into the open field, sprinting towards the besieged caravan. As they approach, two of the smoky beings turn towards them and begin to fly in their direction.

“Steady yourselves,” Adrian says, drawing his sword Light with a blinding flash of sun on steel.

Before the entities can get too close to the party, however, the sky above them opens up and two slender beams of light arc down onto the demons, who pause to study this. Suddenly, two bright orbs of sunlight following the trajectory of the beams come crashing down on them, creating a brilliant dazzle of light that dances across the field that evaporates the two demons closest to the party. They look back to see Django standing on the battlements, channeling the incantation and throwing them a thumbs up.

“Look, more demons,” Ash says, and three additional apparitions have peeled off from the group to assault them. The team readies their weapons, and—

“Let’s roll initiative,” Nick says.

Ash strikes first, raising her lance to the sky and heaving it at one of the demons who nimbly avoids its arc due to a pretty bad attack roll. With a second attack, Ash grabs the chain and spins the outstretched lance in a wide arc, catching the second phantom in the chest. She lets out a mighty guffaw and retracts the lance.

The third phantom lunges towards Tyvus, whose armor class is pretty bullshit right now, raking him across the arm with long, slick nails and dealing a small amount of necrotic damage. The second phantom takes a wide path around towards Ella, striking her in the back with similar claws.

Adrian steps forward, spinning his blade in the air at the first phantom. The blade glows a brilliant white as he brings it down through the phantom’s body, dealing a significant amount of damage and bringing the phantom to the ground. He then surges towards the phantom and drives the blade through its chest, pulling the blade out as the spirit screeches and then evaporates.

Tyvus turns towards the phantom closest to him, which is now siphoning health away from him, and begins to rub his hands together again. As the orbs floating around him begin to spin faster, static fills the air and his implants begin to glow, not with their typical blue light but with pure, white light. He pulls one fist back, energy crackling along his arm, and punches forward loosing a bolt of white hot divine electricity that pierces the third phantom and erupts out of its back. The phantom screams, and then evaporates.

Ella, who rolled poorly in her initiative, pulls out her holy symbol, which levitates and spins idly above her hand. She grabs one of the points of the five-pointed star, and spins it, channeling healing magic out and into herself and Tyvus. Behind her, Ash leaps towards the second phantom and plunges the lance into its body, critting against it and causing the entity to explode with dark smoke.

“Yaaay we did it,” Adrian says, surveying the scene.

“Do not be so sure, little human man,” Ash says, pointing towards the caravan. “Look at this.”

Several more of the phantoms peel off from the main group, and begin to coalesce into a larger incorporeal entity. A long, ghastly sword appears within the mass, and then a huge arm, and finally an armored knight steps out of the smoke. The phantom knight releases a miserable howl, and jumps on top of a phantasmal steed that appears suddenly and charges towards the knights.

“Whoa,” says Adrian, “that’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah but like, what about the thing where it wants to murder us though,” says Tyvus.

Adrian frowns. “That’s not a reason why something can’t be cool. A lot of cool things might want to murder you. Dragons are cool, and they’re very murdery.”

“I don’t know about you home dog, but one of my prerequisites to something being cool is that I can picture it in my mind and the first thing I see isn’t my body being cleft in twain.”

Ella rolls her eyes and steps forward. “That’s your turn, right? You took your turn? With the talking? Because it’s Ella’s turn.” She holds her divine symbol in front of her and cracks open the tome she had been given by Django and casts—

“You’re aware that you can’t use that right now, right?” Nick said.

“Nah, you gave me the necklace, remember?”

Nick stared at Mary, nonplussed. “I… but… you can only do that three times.”

Mary raised an eyebrow quizzically. “Yes? So I’ve got two charges left.”

“But… I had intended… you might need those later for—”

Mary raises a hand. “Say no more, I’ll just—

“Wooooooo Daybreak!” Ella shouts, raising her hand to the sky.

The sun in the sky above them begins to grow extremely bright, and the temperature increases dramatically. One of the glowing white crystals in Ella’s necklace blinks for a moment, and then shatters. The pages of the tome begin to glow, and from above them there is a tremendous, roaring sound as a rippling torrent of fire and light cascades down from the sun towards the phantasmal knight. Before the knight has a chance to move, a deadly laser of sunlight encompasses it and it is torn asunder. Bolts of light crackle around the edges of the beam until Ella finishes channeling the spell. In the wake of the incantation’s display of power, all that remains is a circle of glass where the ground once was, and a wisp of smoke that quickly vanishes.

“Yay,” Ella says, pumping a single fist in the air, “I did it. I am the best cleric ever.”

From behind the party comes another crackling sound, and several more bolts of light arc from the town walls towards the remaining spirits. The phantoms howl in agony as they are pierced by Django’s spells, and they dissipate as a strong breeze sweeps and carries their remaining essence away.

“And you’ve won the fight,” Nick said, flatly.

“Woop woop,” Mary shouted, shimmying slightly. “I told you that would work.” She paused, eyeing the despondent Nick. “What’s wrong, chief?”

Nick sighed. “Nothing. That fight was just sort of an introductory thing, and-"

Mary pressed a finger against Nick's face. "Shhhhhhhh beebee. No time for pain now. Only victory."

Nick paused to consider the finger, and then shrugged. "Fair enough," he said. "With that, you're approached by the leader of the caravan, who says-"

"Thank the gods and heroes, you've saved us!" The man beams as he pulls the caravan up alongside the party. "We thought that was it for us, those ghouls had been following us for miles."

"What were those things?" Ella inquires.

The man spits on the ground. "Demons. Foul things from the north, crossed the Silver Sea to spread death on our shores. Heralds of the fell king that has taken up residence in Cape Olivier."

Adrian nods sagely. "Yes. By my power of deductive reasoning, I have determined that this is the work of none other than the Hanged King."

Ella rolls her eyes. "Great work, Captain Sherlock. You're a marvel of the human mind."

Adrian continues nodding. Ash steps forward, the butt of her ax planted firmly in the ground.

"Say there, small humanman," she says. "Our company is preparing to cross the hills to Cape Olivier, with the goal of identifying and destroying the threat there. However, we have no means of rapid transit - our solitary mode of transporation is a hog-cart of ill-repute-"

"Excuse you," Mary says, scowling.

"-and if it would please you, sir, we would kindly ask to purchase one of yours and a good horse. Our friend the Duke of Elmbeach would no doubt make it worth your while."

Nick paused to consider. "Convincing, sure, but you're going to need to roll persuasion for that."

Vera poked at the dice in front of her. "Let's see, I need to roll… need to roll… one of these…"

"It's the one with the '20' on it," Nick said as Mohammad covered up a snicker. "That one there. That's the one. With the '20' on it, Vera my god, the '20'".

Vera snatched the D20 and with a deft shake sent it dancing across the table. They all peered down at the result. It was Elliott's turn to hide a chuckle.

"Mmmmmmmmmm I'm sorry Sar Knightress," the caravan owner says, nervously stepping away from the group, "but my caravan is all I have now, since the darkness has taken my home, family and friends back at the-"

"Yeah, I'm going to cast Command," Mary said, flipping through the book in front of her.

Nick chokes down his drink to avoid a spittake. "You're doing what."

"Command," she said. "You speak a one-word command to a creature you can see within range. The target must succeed on-"

"I know what it does," Nick said. "This guy is traveling with the last of his belongings to Elmbeach, and you're going to use a spell on him?"

Mary nods feverishly. Nick sighs. "Alright, fine. I'll roll his saving throw… and a three probably fails, huh? Alright then, let's hear what you'd like this poor caravan owner to do."

The man's eyes grow wide in terror. He turns on a pivot and begins to sprint away from the group, back towards the hills to the west, screeching as he goes. Ella cackles nefariously as her hands glow with dim blue light.

"Yes, flee my puppet," she says, "flee from your master!"

Suddenly the lights on her hands go out and are replaced by spinning grey alchemical seals. She shakes them slightly as if trying to turn them back on. Django Bridge comes up alongside the group with a detachment of Elmbeach knights. He motions towards the fleeing caravan owner, and the knights take off after him.

"Hey, whoa, what did you do to my magic?" Ella says, scowling.

Django hops off his horse. "You're going to have to figure out at some point you can't just magic whatever you want. Eventually folks are going to get pretty sour about that." He waves his hands again and the incantation blocking her magic ends. "Besides, we have too far to go in too little time. There's no way we'd make it in that cart." Another detachment of knights sidles up alongside them, each with the reigns of another horse in their hands.

"Hell yes, I fucking love horse," Adrian shouts, speedily mounting the white horse nearest the front. Ella and Vinzin scurry up theirs as well, leaving Ash to stare at a horse not nearly large enough to carry her. She glares at Django.

"General Bridge. This simply will not do. Mounting this horse will result in its untimely death."

Django rubs his chin knowingly. "True," he says, nodding. "This horse is too small." He reaches into his breast pocket and produces a small leather-bound book. Flipping through it quickly he lands on a passage, and holds a hand aloft. The horse whinnies, then grows significantly taller and broader. Ash observes the process with mouth agape, then squeals in glee once the horse has finished expanding.

"YES!" she cries out. "This is a steed worthy of the noble house Labelle!" With a mighty leap she hops on her horse and the two trot over to the rest of the group. Django nods approvingly.

"Alrighty, well, I guess we'll see how this goes," he says. "No clue what we're going to run into over there, so here's hoping we don't die."

All of them agree that death is not the preferred outcome, and with a victorious battle screech from Ella

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